Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Virtual Think Tank: Handling Crisis

The BrightBlue Marketing team and Narciso Tovar of Big Noise Communications had of the first of what will be monthly Virtual Think Tank meetings to discuss relevant marketing and PR topics and compelling issues in the business world. This month’s question was “From a marketing and PR perspective, how do you handle a crisis?” On our minds were the Jet Blue incident, the BP debacle, Shirley Sherrod’s resignation, the Dominos vulgar viral video, Comcast positively reacting to a crisis via Twitter and the Tiger Woods scandal.

In the face of a crisis, companies can be badly hurt if they don’t have a crisis management plan in place for eventualities. These plans should be detailed and reviewed often. Why? Just like the fire drills we used to have in school, it is imperative that companies have a plan in place to guide employees’ behavior and identify who is in charge. Tiger Woods and Jet Blue enjoyed being media darlings, but when crisis hit, their virtual silence put the situation in the hands of everyone else: competitors, consumers and the media.

We came up with five main points for a contingency plan

1. HAVE ONE! This ensures your company knows what to do, who is in charge and provides a blueprint for behavior. Explore and learn all the facts before you take action. Your response must be appropriate and made when you have all the information available and the facts completely straight

2. Move quickly and don’t hide. Be ready to speak to the press and use your online presence to put forth your message. Leverage your social media channels (Comcast/Twitter, etc.) to react in a positive and proactive way to people dealing with crisis

3. Be ready to adapt and change. Be flexible. You will be dealing with a lot of emotions from a lot of different players. Everyone is the company should have their crisis hat on

4. When you do start talking, give accurate, truthful information. Keep it real and be a resource. If you don’t know something, say so. If you can’t discuss something because of legal reasons, just admit it

5. The company spokesperson should be human and not come across as just a “suit.” Be yourself. People in a crunch respond to human beings that are both emotional and rational. You don’t want to come off as cold. You want to be able to humanize the situation and put a face to the company within the situation

To summarize, be prepared (with a crisis management plan), be honest, be sincere and be proactive.

Do you see anything we missed? Let yourself be heard and let us know!

Next month’s discussion: Getting Heard Above All That Noise. How do you make your own compelling, positive and memorable noise and how can you be heard above the rest. We will recap this call and share our thoughts with you through our social media channels.

Interested in joining our conversation? Every quarter, we will invite clients and prospective clients to be part of the Think Tank and exchange views on germane topics. Look for more information in November!

Further reading:

Dominos: The company’s step-by-step response after a vulgar video goes viral
Social media DO’s and DON’Ts: 5 hints for successful crisis-management
BP's crisis management marketing won't work without a little proof in the pudding
Wikipedia crisis management article

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